Cash from the past

Guess we’re saying goodbye to piggy banks for good. Michael Longmire via Unsplash

The use of physical cash is a dying practice and the implications it will have will be difficult for many

Do you remember growing up and having your grandparents sneak a five-dollar bill into your pocket when your parents weren’t looking? Or asking your mom for a quarter at the mall so you could use the gumball machine? How about digging through the couch cushions to try and find spare change that inevitably fell out of your dad’s pockets, hoping you could collect enough to walk to the corner store for a Slurpee? Those were the days, weren’t they?

Now all of that is slowly starting to go away. We have entered an age where the majority of people use debit or credit cards, or have that information stored in their phone to tap away their earnings with greater ease. These tactics have been beneficial during COVID as we know how dirty physical money can be, and reducing the amount of contact between individuals is useful. But there are many potential problems that can come about with the dwindling of cash use and the societal expectations that you must pay with a contactless option.

The first issue effects those who are very young and those much older. For those on the younger end of the spectrum who are not old enough to open a bank account, how are they going to learn about the value of money? Many of us experienced getting an allowance after doing work around the house. If places are limiting or refusing to accept cash, how are younger children supposed to learn these life skills? The idea of rationing your money to afford a snack today and a snack on the weekend are some of the initial steps in learning how to manage your money.

Now what about those on the other end of life? For many elderly individuals it is significantly easier to pay with cash. The debit machines can be hard to use as the screens are often very dim with the writing very small, and having the dexterity to manipulate the pin pad buttons as needed can be challenging. By being able to look at the colours and feel the size of coins being used, it is often much easier and less stressful to use cash. Now the stress is increasing again as many cashiers become annoyed or frustrated waiting for them to provide cash as well as put the change they receive back into their wallets. It’s hard to move through life when the ways that you’ve always known and the processes you’re accustomed to suddenly change after so many years of using the same methods.

Moving away from physical cash and to the land of tapping away our funds has a large impact regarding how we spend our money. Holding physical cash in your hands, seeing whether you have 150 dollars or ten dollars, it impacts how frugal you are with your spending habits. No longer seeing those numbers directly in front of us, but rather having to log into a banking app to check our balances allows for overspending to happen much more frequently and to a much greater extent. It is much harder to stick within a budget if you are not actively monitoring your finances, which may appear to be easier to do as we have access to all the information on our computers and phones – but it’s much harder demonstrating the self-discipline to follow through with doing so.

Looking outside of our immediate uses, moving away from cash and to card transactions will influence different industries. When looking at the culture of tipping, it will be easier for people to feel as though they are not obligated to tip, or they will tip less. It is easier to round your bill up to the nearest dollar, only tipping 60 cents rather than checking how much change is weighing down your pockets and dumping three dollars of dimes and quarters on the table. The tattoo industry will also have to look at shifting their methods, as it is common practice for tattoos to be paid for entirely with cash. With the world moving away from this slowly, shops will have to adapt to offering other payments options.

It may be dirty and weigh down your pockets, but cash is a staple that has rooted itself into many practices. More people will spend greater amounts with greater ease, and the social norms of tipping will not be demonstrated in as obvious of a way, negatively impacting the workers in those industries. Think about the implications tapping your card has the next time you go for dinner.


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